A Trip to Zilim
This is extremely late in the scheme of things, but since I had a few photos from this trip that I wanted to share, I thought I'd take some time and write. This trip was courtesy of Bashinkom, who happen to be a supporter of my wife's not-for-profit Health & Help.
Around five hours driving south-east from Ufa you will find the river Zilim. It's a grand river that winds through the heart of Bashkortostan's mountains and impressive nature. When asked if we owned a four wheel drive vehicle (we don't) the person who was going to guide us there looked concerned, then followed that up with a non-committal, "You'll be fine."
Two hours in and we popped a tire.
Three hours after that and we couldn't continue due to lack of drivable road. We ended up cramming in said guides SUV. Finally we arrived: a bus full of employee children, a couple SUVs and one buhanka (a brutal van thing - see picture below) full of our camping stuff. After unloading at a rustic campsite complete with banya (I mean come on, you have to have that), we finally had a chance to fully appreciate our surroundings.
The mountains of Bashkiria aren't like what you would find in say, Colorado. The peaks here don't soar as much. Rather these are longer, with flat ridges that carry on and inclines that are favorable to most. The forest is thick and dense (like northern Wisconsin actually) and packed with stinging nettle. Which, I'll note, did little to deter the Russian children from running all around.
Through this all the river Zilim flows peacefully, especially in August when the water is low. Plenty of trails make their way to and from various camp sites often times crossing over the river. I suggest a visit if you find yourself in this part of Russia.
There is one culture observation I'd like to make from this trip and others. That is, in the US if you want to camp or hike somewhere, typically you find a designated area, pay a fee if necessary, and observe the posted rules.
"Look! An unnamed road that leads into the forest - let's go there."
No joke. I'm always surprised and my first instinct is to ask, "Uh...is this legal?" The typical response I get is, "Who cares? The police don't come out here." This changes of course for clearly defined nature reserves where state foresters will likely make sure the rules are being followed (although I hear vodka and/or money can typically solve any "issues").
It's a strange sort of freedom. One that you really have to go far away to find I suppose.
Some photos from the trip: